I mean … a woman to keep taking leading acts throughout her life and contribute to the emergence of other leaders likely to question, change, and renew the endangered world we presently are living in.

Naomi Osaka is known for her introvert since she is not very present physically in conventional media whose questions she answers briefly when she is constraint to. She appears more comfortable behind her keyboard or smartphone when feeding or interacting with her followers through her social platform. However, the Japanese is building a powerful reputation while doing just what she is good in that are playing tennis and practicing fashion. Over the last two years, she has taken a whole series of leading acts which tend, perhaps unconsciously, to be reproduced and arouse debates likely to induce changes and renewal in athlete’s role and relationship with societies.

A leader is one who embraces a cause, moves it towards its goal; and Naomi Osaka matches perfectly with such a definition. She has made the Black Lives Matter movement her own by supporting it through her social platforms, taking part in the streets protest, and bringing their claims on the tennis courts and around. By wearing a mask bearing the effigy of black men and women killed by police or based on their color during every of her games in 2020 U.S Open, Osaka has brought the racial issue farther than its usual reach. Tennis commentators could not prevent themselves from elaborating over the question and therefore opening it to a larger audience formed of viewers and auditors who, in their leaving-room, got the picture directly from their screens or receptors. Even conservative and right-wing opinion leaders, while disapproving Osaka’s act of courage and engagement towards BLB causes, contribute to promote across the world. Doing so, they have been driven to contribute to advocate a society with more social justice.

According to World Health Organization, one person dies by suicide every 40 seconds in the world, making it the 17th leading cause of death in 2019.

During the 2021 summertime, it is the athlete’s mental health issue that Naomi Osaka has brought to spotlight. She brandished her own as a pretext to skip press conferences required after the games during the Roland Garros (May-June) in France. She braved the threat of penalization and ended up withdrawing from the tournament with the intent to stay away a time “to focus on heir self-care and look after her mental health”. Yet Osaka justified her act while urging the tennis world to keep its course, “now I think the best thing for the tournament, the other players and my well-being is that I withdraw so that everyone can get back to focusing on the tennis going on in Paris. And Osaka to add, “I’m gonna take some time away from the court now, but when the time is right, I really want to work with the Tour to discuss ways we can make things better for the players, press and fans.”

As expected, Osaka’s act has not achieved unanimity. Most of the sport’s actors recalled her that going to press meetings after a game was part of the work, thus avoided, purposely or not, to approach mental health as an issue. Nevertheless, it is a serious one as it affects every level of the society, and it seems being part of superstars’ life. Unfortunately ignoring or underplaying mental health has already had its consequences. Since people coping with it found themselves oftentimes alone, they opt for the easiest solution that is suicide. Statistics say it all. According to World Health Organization, one person dies by suicide every 40 seconds in the world, making it the 17th leading cause of death in 2019. The amounts are particularly alarming among young people 15-29 where suicide is the fourth cause of death. And experts underline mental sickness as the main channel carrying people on killing themselves.

In the wake of Naomi Osaka’s mental health saga, the case of the gymnast Simon Biles has pointed out. The defending Olympic champion has withdrawn from individual all-around competition at the Tokyo Olympic Games to focus on her mental well-being. Biles who is in the same age group as Osaka has leaned on her mental health as the reason to stop doing for a while what has made her the superstar, she is today so that she takes care of herself. Critics assimilate these women’s decision to caprice, cowardice, fear, weakness and more. Nonetheless a quick look back over statistics relatives to stars’ case of suicide they could think a little bit before throwing their bitterness to these two women. Perhaps Whitney Houston, Terry Moise and many others would be still alive if they dared talk about their trouble publicly.

The good news is that on August 2, 2021, the Federation International of Football Association (FIFA) has taken the lead as the first organization which will have heard these two athletes’ whispers from the bottom of a silent and mentally dying society.

In any case, Osaka’s leading acts have cleared the way for Biles to express herself and show others that they have choices between the adventure toward suicide or say no to the reality-monster that took control of themselves at the expense of themselves. Osaka first, Biles later and others in the future will keep claiming to take care of their mental heath so that the world can look over its own. The good news is that on August 2, 2021, the Federation International of Football Association (FIFA) has taken the lead as the first organization which will have heard these two athletes’ whispers from the bottom of a silent and mentally dying society. Indeed, FIFA has launched a “campaign for better mental health” called #ReachOut. It is “designed to raise awareness of the symptoms of mental health conditions, encourage people to seek help when they need it, and take actions every day for better mental health”.

Presently, Naomi Osaka may not perceive herself as a leader, pretending that she has done and will do just what she considers as just or fair. But, with time she will have to assume her leadership since many sick people, like she has been, will follow her by taking leading acts as she has been doing. After all, it is not for everyone to be heard, followed or to move the leadership hill.

By Guadel

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